Building Africa's Future: The Impact of Africa's Business Heroes Prize

Tuesday 7 May 2024

In just five years, the Africa's Business Heroes (ABH) Prize Competition has become a powerful catalyst for entrepreneurship across the continent. This interview, with Rafeh Saleh, Founding Partner at Cubit Venture, and ABH Partner North Africa explores the program's far-reaching impact, fostering a network of innovative businesses and empowering founders to tackle critical social and economic challenges.

Heroes Prize

A Thriving Ecosystem of Innovation

Our interviewee delves into the impressive statistics showcasing ABH's success. From grant recipients raising over $153 million in investments to creating 123,000 jobs, the program demonstrably fuels growth and opportunity. We'll also explore the increasing participation of North African entrepreneurs, including success stories like Prexilabs, the 2021 ABH Grand Prize winner.

Can you give us an overview of ABH's impact across Africa over the past 5 years?

The impact of ABH has been tremendous. The level of support from ABH for applicants goes way beyond the prize money. Once you’re among the ABH top finalists (from Top 50 down to the top 10/winners), you get priceless exposure to a global network of advisors and investors. From one year to the next, we’re seeing more entrepreneurs cutting across multiple markets and sectors, we’re seeing applicants of varied backgrounds and age groups working on a variety of tech and non-tech solutions solving acute social and economic problems. Most notable is the growing percentage of women founders applying to ABH and progressing to the final round. ABH grant recipients have over the past 5 editions raised over $153M in investments, created 123k jobs, received $7M in prize money, and reported over $252M in revenue.

Could you highlight the significant participation and achievements of North African entrepreneurs in past ABH editions? Also, can you share the total grant amount awarded to North African entrepreneurs since ABH's inception, along with a few success stories of Northern Africa’s former winners?

North African entrepreneurs represented 14% of applicants so far.

  • Eight companies from the North made it to the top 10 over the past five years.
  • Four made it to the top 3, with Egypt-based Praxilabs winning the ABH Grand Prize in 2021.
  • Thanks to ABH, 2023 second runner-up Sprints, an Egypt-based e-learning and training company, was able to tap into a network of investors saving the founder a lot of time and effort in finding the right partners to support the business goals. ABH helped Sprints connect with key people and organizations, making it easier to navigate the specific African ecosystems the company is interested in for market entry purposes. Since entering the competition and till today, ABH has provided Sprints with ongoing mentorship and guidance.
  • Another Egypt-based company Helm capitalized on ABH to build a foundation to scale across countries in Africa and beyond. ABH allowed Helm to clearly identify their strengths and weaknesses and needs for growing the business.  This helped Helm create a stronger strategy and improve processes, internal culture, and hiring strategy.

What are some of the additional benefits that participants receive beyond the grant money in the ABH program, and how does ABH foster a sense of community and support within its network?

Once you become a participant in the ABH prize competition, you’ll constantly learn about yourself and your business, receive candid feedback that helps you develop your narrative and fine-tune your business model, access invaluable mentorship and training, and become a family member of a distinguished ecosystem. Above all you will also receive priceless pan-African recognition and increased visibility through extensive publicity.

Do you have any insights or advice to inspire aspiring entrepreneurs in North Africa?

I advise all existing and aspiring entrepreneurs across the region but also across Africa to sustain positive impact. Founders must pay special attention to unit economics, capital efficiency, and strive towards scaling the business to maximize impact across a broader segment. Never be obsessed with your product/solution but rather focus on the problem you’re solving and always continuously strive to listen to your customers. Great products and services reflect the voice of customers not that of founders, consultants, investors, or mentors.

What direct call to action would you like to extend to readers in the North African region who may be considering applying to ABH before the deadline?

To all entrepreneurs in North Africa, I strongly encourage you to apply for the ABH prize competition to access numerous opportunities beyond just winning a share of the $1.5 million grant. Begin working on your application immediately. Be transparent in your responses and consider reaching out to speak with former ABH finalists to gain valuable insights into the process and requirements for advancing to the final stages. Additionally, visit the ABH website for comprehensive guidance on successfully completing your application before the approaching deadline of June 9, 2024:


Can you provide clarity on the eligibility criteria for entrepreneurs interested in applying to ABH from North Africa? Additionally, could you outline the application process and any key deadlines applicants should be aware of?   

ABH is looking for African entrepreneurs that are creating an impact in their communities and building a more inclusive economy for the future. Africans from all 54 African countries are eligible to apply irrespective of age, industry sector or gender. However, applicants must meet a strict set of criteria:

  • Applicant is of African origin. You should have African citizenship and/or a parent or grandparent has African citizenship.
  • Company is legally registered. The business should be registered with the government in at least 1 African country. It should have a business license to operate.
  • Company is Africa-based. The business is headquartered in an African country, and primarily operates in Africa.
  • Company is at a post-idea stage. The business has been operational for at least three years and has at least three years of revenue history that can be provided.

The application process is comprised of six key steps: Meet eligibility criteria, provide reference, provide profile and achievements, submit complete business profile as per application document, business deep-dive on team and business model, and finally video intros where we get to meet one of your customers for further insights on the business.

Key deadlines:  You have until June 9, 2024 to submit your application. Before then you can visit the application site and edit your responses as many times as required.

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